Ugh, I'm sick.

I'm not seeking sympathy (it seems like everyone is catching something lately) but it's a crucial detail for this article. While brushing my teeth in a NyQuil haze (about to enter a DayQuil fog) it suddenly hit me:

When I start feeling better, can my toothbrush make me sick again?

Typically, I opt for inexpensive toothbrushes and regularly replace them. However, my dentist recently suggested a special brush with a replaceable head, each costing $7. That can add up quickly. So can I stick to just using the toothbrush head that I am using, even after I start to feel better?

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I did what any normal person does - checked with Dr. Google.

It turns out that I am not the only person asking this question because many reputable dental health-related sites heavily discuss this topic. Here's the consensus.

It depends. If you have a severely compromised immune system, you might want to swap out your brush, but if you are well aware that you have this issue, this is likely already a regular part of your routine.

If you do not have a compromised immune system, Very Well Health points out that there's no need to change your brush when you start to feel better. In the same article, it's mentioned that even a bad case of strep throat (my throat is hurting again as I write this) doesn't mean you need to toss your brush.

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VeryWellHealth references a 2013 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics that found toothbrushes used by kids with a case of strep did not grow additional bacteria.

Can Toothbrushes Make You Sick?

What Toothbrush Precautions Should You Take When You Are Sick?

While the consensus seems to be that it is unnecessary to discard the toothbrush that you have been using while sick, there are some precautions you can take to make sure the people around you don't get sick.

It's obvious but needs to be stated: don't share toothbrushes. Why you would do that is beyond me, but things happen and I am not here to judge.

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Something that you might not think about is a group toothbrush holder. If your sicky-sick brush was in close proximity to other brushes, they might want to replace theirs.

Basic Toothbrush Maintenance

Even when you aren't sick there are things you can do to keep your toothbrush in tip-top shape. These are the suggestions from the American Dental Association.

  • As mentioned, don't share them. That's nasty.
  • Thoroughly rinse your brush to make sure there's nothing gross sitting there.
  • Make sure your brush is stored standing upright. The ADA points out that storing the brush in a closed container will result in more bacteria growth than when it's left standing out in the open.
  • Replace your brush every three to four months, or when the bristles start to look worn.

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